A Few Minutes With Terry Finley: Keeneland September Yearling Sale
We sat down with WPT president Terry Finley for a few minutes earlier this week. Now a resident of Saratoga Springs, Finley is on the ground in Lexington, Kentucky for the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, which runs from the 9th-21st. With 3,908 yearlings catalogued, it requires hard work, dedication, and discipline when working to select the stable’s newest runners.
Q: How do you tackle a sale with so many yearlings?
TF: Quite a bit of preparation takes place before we even reach the sales ground. We study the catalogue and mark horses with pedigrees most fitting to our program and also evaluate previous sale data. Our experience shows we probably won’t be in the market for a horse who brought $500,000 as a weanling, so in most instances it’s better not to expend our resources on those horses.
Once we arrive at the sale, it’s a team effort. We split up the catalogue and assign each of our “short listers” a block of horses to evaluate. At the end of every day we meet and determine which horses make the “first cut”. I take a look at that group of horses and determine the ones we’ll continue pursuing.
Throughout the entire sale, we work off a dynamic document, making detailed notes on pedigree, conformation, vet work, heart analysis, biomechanical workups, etc. I find it’s very important to stay ahead of the game and organized at a sale with so many horses. At the beginning of each sale day, there are often only a few horses who “jumped through all the hoops” that we’ll try to buy.
Q: What is your take on the market for yearlings in 2013?
TF: The market is very strong. At the Fasig-Tipton July Sale, we saw a 10% increase in average price, 20% increase in median, and sharp decrease in buybacks from 2012. The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale was also solid -- there was a slight decrease in average price, but median price was up 11%. Buy backs were also down, a sign of consignor satisfaction with the market.
Because of this, we’ll place most of our focus on the middle days of the Keeneland Sale. It can be tough to buy horses in book one. We’re in the market for athletic individuals with quality pedigrees, but not in the market for horses by sires like Giant’s Causeway out of a grade one winning mares who are the best physicals in the sale. Those type of horses typically command over a million dollars.
Q: What type of horse are you looking for at the yearling sales?
TF: The majority of our focus is on acquiring two-turn prospects to get our Partners to classic races. What does this mean? Well pedigree is a leading indicator of a stamina in a racehorse. Body type and cardio profile also play a major role in determining a horse’s propensity to go two turns.
Q: How important is the female family when selecting a yearling?
TF: It holds some weight, but it’s only one piece of the pie. Of course we’d love to say every horse we buy is out of a stakes winning mare who’s thrown nothing but stakes runners. That’s not reality. There’s no such thing as a perfect horse. If we love a horse physically and he vets, scopes, and heart scans, and he has a below average female family, that won’t take us off him completely, but it may cause us to be a bit more conservative with our valuation.
Awesome Gem earned nearly $3 million on the racetrack. His dam Piano, has thrown four winners from seven runners. Not one of those other runners ever competed in a stakes race, and most of them are claimers. It goes to show, pedigree isn’t everything.
Q: Buzz Chace was instrumental in helping you develop an eye for a good horse. Tell us a little bit about how he’s helped you.
TF: The racing industry lost a legend when Buzz passed recently. Not only was he exceptional at selecting horses, he was a great friend and an even better human being.
The most important piece of wisdom Buzz instilled in me was “a good horse can come from anywhere.”
We’re seeing that with our graded stakes winner Twilight Eclipse, who sold for $1,000 back in 2010 as a yearling. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been sitting in the front row of the sales ring on that cold January day.
Q: Finally, what’s your favorite restaurant in Lexington?
TF: Dudley’s...by far.